Nacho flies are back

That’s what I heard in a Taco Bell television commercial on Tuesday the 24th. I visualized insects with tortilla chip wings. Decidedly odd: was Taco Bell being besiged by these nacho flies, and, if so, why were they telling us about it?

Then I realized it must be nacho fries; my confusion stemmed in part from the fact that I’d never heard of nacho fries — I don’t keep up with the fast-food business — and though I know what nachos are, I had no clear idea of what something called nacho fries would be would be like.

Now, I’ve had cheese fries — French fries with melted cheese or a cheese sauce on top of them,

(#1) Shake Shack cheese fries

just as nachos are tortilla chips with melted cheese or a cheese sauce on top of them —

(#2) Basic nachos (with (optional) sliced jalapeño peppers)

so that, I reasoned, nacho fries might be French fries treated the way tortilla chips are treated in nachos (French fries nacho-style, if you will). But that would just make them cheese fries.

Then I found what Taco Bell is selling as nacho fries and was further puzzled. They come in two parts:

(#3) Taco Bell Nacho Fries ($1.29): Seasoned Fries plus Nacho Cheese Dip

(Nacho Fries is always capitalized on the Taco Bell site and in stories about the company’s food: it’s the proper name of a company-specific food preparation (though it doesn’t seem to be registered), not a common noun nacho fries, so in principle it doesn’t have to have a semantic analysis — it could be a quirky company name for prune juice, or oregano — and doesn’t have to have anything to do with nachos or with (French) fries. But in fact Nacho Fries is clearly a N + N compound, rather than an unanalyzable whole, and in fact if you treat the Nacho Cheese Dip as an accompaniment rather than as half of a two-piece food preparation, Nacho Fries is a subsective compound, since Nacho Fries, understood this way, are (French) fries. Fries with, we have to hope, something to do with nachos.)

Fries seasoned how? What’s in the cheese dip, besides cheese, or (more likely) some cheese food product? No answers to these questions in what I’ve been able to find.

I’ll have more to say about Taco Bell, but first some important background and one digression.

Background 1: the name Nacho. It’s a nickname, the short (hypocoristic) form of the Spanish name Ignacio, though (as with many nicknames) it serves straightforwardly as the personal name for virtually all purposes for many of the men who bear it.

Digression: nacho flies. I was sufficiently taken with my original mishearing to see what googling would turn up for “nacho flies”. Mostly: (a) pictures of fly-fishing lures tied by guys named Nacho; and (b) videos of someone named Nacho — notably, a cute kid in a caped superhero costume — flying, in some sense of flying. I realized that my original conception of nacho-winged dipterans was unlikely to be realized, but I dared to hope that there might be a variety of flies that fed on nachos or were customarily trapped in their gooey cheese. Apparently not.

Background 2: the nacho story. From Wikipedia:

Nachos is a dish from northern Mexico that consists of tortilla chips (or [the very similar] totopos) covered with cheese or a cheese-based sauce often served as a snack. More elaborate versions add other ingredients and may be served as a main dish. Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya is credited with creating the dish in about 1943. The original nachos consisted of fried corn tortillas covered with melted cheese and sliced jalapeño peppers.

And from NOAD, which is more cautious about the origin of the name:

pl. noun nachos (singular nacho): a dish of tortilla chips topped with melted cheese and often also other savory toppings: he made us nachos and chicken fajitas. ORIGIN 1940s: perhaps from Mexican Spanish Nacho, pet form of Ignacio, the first name of the chef credited with creating the dish. An alternative derivation is from Spanish nacho ‘flat-nosed’.

Your basic nachos can be amended almost without end, though there are some standard additions, especially beef, as here (link):


And on with other Mexican-congenial ingredients — tomatoes, avocados, corn kernels, black olives, green onions — as here (link):


And in my 11/16/13 posting “macho nachos”, a Paula Deen recipe that has the cheese and jalapeños, plus refried beans, chili, sour cream, tomatoes, and green onions.

More from Taco Bell. From the delish website, “Not To Incite Panic, But Taco Bell Is Bringing Back Nacho Fries: RUN, DON’T WALK” by Tess Koman on 6/27/18:

It’s been a dark few months for innumerable reasons, not the least of them being Taco Bell discontinued Nacho Fries back in March. There’s now a light at the end of the tunnel, though, as the chain has confirmed they’re BRINGING ‘EM BACK.

As of July 12, the fries — which made “the biggest debut in Taco Bell history,” per a press release — will be back on menus everywhere.

The release also explains they’ll be available [à] la carte for $1.29 and also served Supreme for $2.49 or BellGrande for $3.49, topped with classic Taco Bell add-ons including beef, nacho cheese sauce, tomatoes and sour cream and also in a $5 box with Nacho Fries, a Doritos® Locos Taco, a Beefy 5-Layer Burrito and Medium Drink.

In a photo:

(#6)  Basic Nacho Fries (Seasoned Fries and Nacho Cheese Dip, separately), plus, in a bowl, Nacho Fries Supreme (Seasoned Fries topped with Nacho Cheese, seasoned beef, sour cream, and tomatoes), plus, in a larger bowl, Nacho Fries BellGrande (Nacho Fries Supreme with more of everything)

So it all comes down to the fabulous Seasoning on the fries and the magic of Nacho Cheese. Where Nacho Cheese apparently means something like ‘(special) cheese (sauce/dip) for nachos’. And Nacho Fries means something like ‘(French) fries with Nacho Cheese’ (where with means either ‘alongside’, for the basic stuff; or ‘topped by’, for the bowls). So that Taco Bell’s Nacho  Fries are indeed cheese fries, just in Fancy Dress.

3 Responses to “Nacho flies are back”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    Apparently Nacho was the nickname of a particular Mexican chef named Ignacio, and those cheese chip things were his invention.

    Interesting as one of the very small number of Basque loan-words in English. Silhouette (a French Basque surname) and bilbo (from Bilbao) are the only other ones I can think of.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      The Nacho Anaya story is in the “Background 2” section of my posting.

      What’s Basque about Ignacio? Standard sources take it back to Latin, where it’s either from an Etruscan surname or from ignis ‘fire’.

      • Bob Richmond Says:

        Ignatius Loyola, after whom people named Ignatius are usually ultimately named, was a Basque. (Founder of the Jesuits.) I knew about the Etruscan origin, though I don’t know how we know that.

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